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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

What has changed since Upton Sinclair?

I have been struggling with that question as I am preparing for my upcoming speech at NEHA in a few weeks.

As most know, Upton Sinclair’ 1906 novel, “The Jungle,” was intended to expose the exploitation of the workers in the Chicago packing houses, but became a best seller because it exposed the underbelly of the turn-of-the-century beef industry. Sinclair famously noted the impact of his book by stating, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” In fact, he felt his book was popular, “not because the public cared anything about the workers, but simply because the public did not want to eat tubercular beef.”  Interesting little video on the history:

In another interesting bit(e) of history, I found that the major meat packers were eventually the main lobbyists with Congress to pass legislation paying for inspection and certification of meat packaged in the United States (with our tax dollars) as opposed to simply legislating enforceable standards. The packer pressure, coupled with the public outcry, led to the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Where for the most part, we still are today.  Well, back to speech writing.

  • Dr Raymond

    But the FMIA did not give Catfish to the USDA, so we must be making progress with the sweeping changes that now put catfish under USDA, but leave shrimp, tilapia and all other water creatures with FDA (and they also have juridiction over Bison by default, since they were not listed in the FMIA)

  • The inspection acts and regulations help both consumers and honest manufactures. That is distilled in the following 1907 Congressional statement of findings:
    21 USC 602 – Sec. 602. Congressional statement of findings
    Meat and meat food products are an important source of the Nation’s total supply of food. They are consumed throughout the Nation and the major portion thereof moves in interstate or foreign commerce. It is essential in the public interest that the health and welfare of consumers be protected by assuring that meat and meat food products distributed to them are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled, and packaged. Unwholesome, adulterated, or misbranded meat or meat food products impair the effective regulation of meat and meat food products in interstate or foreign commerce, are injurious to the public welfare, destroy markets for wholesome, not adulterated, and properly labeled and packaged meat and meat food products, and result in sundry losses to livestock producers and processors of meat and meat food products, as well as injury to consumers. The unwholesome, adulterated, mislabeled, or deceptively packaged articles can be sold at lower prices and compete unfairly with the wholesome, not adulterated, and properly labeled and packaged articles, to the detriment of consumers and the public generally. It is hereby found that all articles and animals which are regulated under this chapter are either in interstate or foreign commerce or substantially affect such commerce, and that regulation by the Secretary and cooperation by the States and other jurisdictions as contemplated by this chapter are appropriate to prevent and eliminate burdens upon such commerce, to effectively regulate such commerce, and to protect the health and welfare of consumers.
    (Mar. 4, 1907, ch. 2907, title I, Sec. 2, as added Pub. L. 90 201, Sec. 2, Dec. 15, 1967, 81 Stat. 587.)